Microphones are essential whenever we address large groups, sing, host, and do an assortment of things that require making our voices louder and clearer.
These mics are useful because they amplify and record vocals, making our lives more convenient as we no longer have to shout to get our point across.
The two most sought-after types of mics on the market are Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones.
Let’s compare their features, differences, and what purposes they serve.
What Are Condenser Mics?
If you’re into mics, you probably know that a condenser microphone is the most popular choice of microphone for studio recording.
The condenser microphone offers you the sensitivity and consistency you need when recording audio. They allow you to record song vocals, podcasts, and voice acting, among other applications.
You also experience a wider frequency response range compared to dynamic ones.
This is because condensers have lower input sensitivity and faster signal input, meaning that these mics are a better fit for quieter environments, like one offered by a studio.
A condenser microphone is best for capturing clear and accurate vocals. They also require a phantom power switch.
That said, condenser mics come at a much greater financial cost. They are pricier than dynamic mics and are much less durable.
The Kinds of Condenser Mics
Condensers come in several different variations, which have their own specialties and uses.
Let’s go through each of them below:
Large-Diaphragm Condenser Mics
Aside from the obvious fact that they are the bigger version of a condenser mic, they also have larger capacities. They are also quieter and offer more character.
Generally, large-diaphragm condensers have a much more accurate transient response.
They also have flat and accurate frequency responses.
Small-Diaphragm Condenser Mics
Small diaphragm condenser mics are mainly utilized for studio and live sound performances.
Often, these mics are used for close-mic instruments. They can also be used as distant or room mics when needed.
These mics have extended frequency and fast transient responses. More so, they have a consistent polar, which means that precision is not an issue.
Condenser Microphone Polar Pattern Types
There are several different polar patterns offered in condenser mics.
Let’s go through several of them below:
This is the most common type of polar pattern.
Inspired by its Greek namesake, a cardioid mic only picks up sound within a heart-shaped area.
A cardioid condenser mic is best used to record vocals and anything that must sound dry and crisp. More so, it is a unidirectional type of mic that rejects sounds from the rear and sides.
It is ideal for home recording as it can no longer record an external sound wave.
You also have to keep in mind the proximity effect when using this mic: moving further away from the mic will yield brighter sound reproduction.
- Far away (12 inches) = open and airy.
- Close (4 inches) = warm and intimate.
NOTE: The proximity effect can make or break a good home recording!
Unlike cardioid mics, hyper-cardioid mics are more directional but less sensitive, picking up a slight amount of audio interfaces from the rear.
They are better for recording ambient sound.
Super cardioid mics, as compared to hyper-cardioid ones, are considered to be a little less directional.
However, they have the advantage of having a slightly smaller rear lobe.
The good thing about omnidirectional mics is that they pick up audio quality uniformly in all directions, making this pattern ideal for measurement microphones.
They’re ideal for outdoor recording.
As the name implies, bi-directional mics only pick up detailed audio from the front and back directions.
This makes them ideal for recording conversations.
Condenser Microphone Pros and Cons
Condenser audio devices have strengths and weaknesses that make them ideal for certain uses and worse for others. Let’s go through some of these pros and cons below:
Here are the main reasons why people opt for a condenser microphone:
- Portability – People who do not have a big recording area will do everything just to save some space. This condenser mic is perfect, as it is smaller in size.
- Frequency Response – A condenser mic can easily catch a wider and flat frequency response at extended frequency ranges.
- High-Frequency Sounds – Since a condenser mic is a lightweight microphone due to lighter diaphragm assembly or fast-moving diaphragm, it can capture several high sound pressure level ranges and frequencies.
- Accuracy and Sensitivity – A condenser mic has a high sensitivity intended for capturing even the most complex sounds of an audio interface from instruments and loud vocals.
Here are a few key reasons why you may want to avoid using Condensers.
- Power – For condenser mics to operate, you’ll need a higher voltage (i.e., grid power or phantom power).
- Price – Condenser mics are more expensive than dynamic microphones. Thus, cheaper condenser mics will give off a small magnitude of noise.
- Signal Level – It can only cater to a certain maximum input signal level.
- The Complexity of Use – Compared to a dynamic mic, a condenser mic’s functionality and operation ability is more complex.
- Easily Affected by Humidity Conditions – A condenser mic is more affected by extreme temperature and humidity than a dynamic mic.
What Are Dynamic Mics?
Dynamic microphones are the better choice for low-to-mid frequency recording of musical instruments like flutes, guitar amps, and pianos.
Unlike condenser mics that rely heavily on power voltage, dynamic mics utilize electromagnetism that converts sound waves into voltage or electric signals.
The sound wave hits the diaphragm and creates electricity, increased by a transformer, which is sent to the mic’s output, producing a sound.
The term “dynamic” has nothing to do with either dynamic range or performance. Thus, it directly refers to the kind of electromagnetism that performs inside your microphone’s dynamo.
The best thing about dynamic mics is that they no longer need a phantom power supply or a direct current voltage sent down the microphone cable to power the preamplifier.
FUN FACT: A dynamic mic is conducive for live performances, gigs, karaoke bars, events hosting, parties, weddings, etc. Dance the party night away with this all-around microphone!
Types of Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic microphones fall under two main categories: Moving Dynamic Coil Mics and Ribbon Audio Amplifiers.
Let’s go through each one along with their respective pros and cons below.
Moving Dynamic Coil Microphones
The wire metal coil is at the back of the transparent membrane, where a permanent magnet surrounds the moving coil dynamic microphones.
The mic signal is induced across a metal coil attached to a diaphragm.
Moving coil dynamic mics are better in terms of durability, cost, convenience, and ease of use.
- Has Omnidirectional Properties – With its good and reliable recording quality, dynamic moving coil mics also come with omnidirectional properties.
- Budget-Friendly – Unlike condenser mics that come with a costly price tag, dynamic mics are much more affordable.
- Ability to Handle Pressure Levels – Its completely mechanical and rugged construction allows it to handle high-pressure levels.
- Non-power Reliant – Unlike condenser mics that rely heavily on voltage, dynamic mics do not require any battery power source to run.
- Durability and Functionality – Dynamic mics are durable and known to withstand many volumes. It can also color the sound in the range of 5 to 10 kHz, adding clarity and understandability to vocal and instrument sounds.
- Poor High-Frequency Response – Due to the coil, force, tube, and diaphragm inertia needed to push the interaction between the coil and magnet through, dynamic microphones have a poor high-frequency response. They are not advisable for recording vocals and instruments with higher frequencies and harmonics.
- A Lot of Missed Sounds – Dynamic mics require more sound pressure to move the coil. Therefore, this mic type typically misses a lot of sound waves.
- Inaccurate and Insensitive – Unlike overly sensitive and accurate condensers, dynamic mics do not have the accuracy, precision, and sensitivity needed for recording in-studio film and music productions.
Unlike moving dynamic coil mics that are induced by a coil to operate, ribbons use the diaphragm as the conductor.
Ribbon mics sound much more natural as compared to moving coil mics.
- Sonic Characteristics – People often go for a ribbon mic because its sonic characteristics produce a rounder, warmer, smoother, and more natural sound than others.
- Bidirectional Polar Pattern – Another characteristic of ribbon mics is their bidirectional polar. Bidirectional patterns let them pick the sound up from both the front and the back of the mics.
- Ribbon Diaphragm – Unlike other mics, a ribbon mic has ribbon diagrams that enable it to generate different kinds of sound.
- Multiple Applications – A ribbon mic can produce great results on the piano, vocals, guitars, etc. Moreso, they work in the same applications as condenser mics.
- Non-phantom Power Reliant – Unlike condenser mics, ribbon microphones do not require phantom power.
- Fragile Nature – The thin aluminum diaphragm material of ribbon type of mic makes them extremely fragile. You should handle them cautiously to avoid breakage or damage.
- Expensive – Ribbons are typically more costly than condenser and moving dynamic coil mics.
- Low Output – The struggle in using it with quieter sources is real since a ribbon mic has low power output.
- Tendency to Bend – It is required for a ribbon mic to be stored in an upright position. The horizontal position tends to distort its shape, which may affect the sound quality it produces.
Condenser vs Dynamic Mics: Key Differences and Similarities
At this point, you might be confused about which microphone to choose based on your needs and preferences. We’ll go through their essential characteristics below.
How They Work
As stated, a dynamic mic works by suspending a coil of wire connected to a diaphragm. We also know that dynamic microphones are non-phantom power reliant.
Characteristics of a Dynamic Mic:
- Works well despite heat or humidity
- Rougher yet usable sound signal
- Makes your volume louder without distortion
Where do you use dynamic microphones?
A dynamic microphone is best-suited for recording loud environments and low-to-mid frequency instruments, such as recording guitar amps.
Recording vocals that won’t need an accurate and smooth reproduction, such as podcasts, interviews, live shows, and hosting, are also a good fit for dynamic mics.
A dynamic mic with a cardioid pattern has rougher sound characteristics that can eliminate unwanted background noise and even self-noise. However, you may lose some nuances during live performances.
Unlike dynamic ones, condenser microphones utilize a phantom power supply to operate.
It vibrates a conductive diaphragm at odds with a charged backplate, converting electrical and acoustic energy.
Characteristics of Condenser Mics:
- Smooth and excellent low-frequency response smooth and a large frequency range
- Flatter response
- Do not fit in extremely hot and humid environments
- Has crisper, clear, and detailed high, frequency sounds
Where do you use condenser microphones?
A condenser microphone is best used for recording vocals utilizing studio applications, including voice acting.
This type of mic produces the best clarity of vocals with high frequencies. It is also called capacitor microphones, which produce detailed, sensitive, and accurate sound.
Lastly, condensers are also good for field and outdoor recording.
Similarities Between the Two Mics
In a nutshell, all microphones operate in a linear and same manner.
Both mics convert sound waves into voltage. Afterward, they send these waves to a preamp.
Differences Between the Two Mics
As for their differences, there are some noticeable ones to take note of:
- How Energy Is Converted – A dynamic microphone utilizes electromagnetism. Meanwhile, condenser microphones work like a battery, where the sound waves hit the diaphragm with a magnetic plate and boost voltage via phantom power.
- Application Types – A dynamic microphone is best used for very loud sounds and live performances. Thus, a condenser is used for studio applications that need a bigger and more natural tone.
- Polar Patterns – A dynamic microphone has either a cardioid or supercardioid pattern. Whereas condensers can take patterns as they can change polar patterns.
- How They Work – A dynamic microphone uses a diaphragm, voice coil, and magnet to pick up the sound and turn them into an electrical signal. Meanwhile, a condenser uses an electrically-charged diaphragm and converts electrical and acoustic energy.
Myths Regarding Dynamic and Condenser Microphones
When it comes to these two microphone types, there can be some confusing statements that others might believe to be true.
Let’s put them to rest and put you at ease when it comes to condenser and dynamic audio recorders:
“Dynamic mics are less fragile than condenser mics”
Most mics have an intricate design producing delicate sounds, making them a fit for use in studios — the same goes for dynamic and condenser microphones.
“All dynamics work well without needing a power supply”
Most dynamic mics won’t need power. However, ribbons and active dynamic mics actually do need power.
“A condenser mic produces very loud sounds than a dynamic microphone”
When choosing between both condenser and dynamic mics, no mic is considered to be louder than the other. What’s important is the selection of a unit with a sensitivity that is needed for your application.
“Dynamic mics are better at handling sound pressures than condenser ones”
This is not true. A condenser microphone can handle high sound pressure levels like any other microphone.
“Condenser mics feed more conveniently and easily than dynamic ones”
In this regard, choosing the appropriate microphone is important. People commonly commit mistakes when picking a condenser mic developed for recording at a distance. The result of this, when amplified, may lead to low-frequency feed.
Final Verdict: Which One Should You Get?
It is a given fact that people can utilize microphones interchangeably.
However, you should still be knowledgeable about choosing the right microphone when confronted with a certain situation.
If asked what the best microphone between the condenser and dynamic mics is, you should always consider the following factors:
- Mic placement
- Sound quality
- Your recording environment
- The types of instruments you’ll use (guitar, drum kit, piano, etc.)
- Ability to avoid self-noise
Overall, CONDENSER MICROPHONES will give you superior sound quality compared to other microphone types since they have the widest frequency and the best transient response.
However, DYNAMIC MICS can handle high sound pressures better.
We have made a detailed head-to-head comparison of the condenser and dynamic mics, and we have seen that these mics have advantages and disadvantages.
To put it simply — there is no “better” or “superior” option between the two.
The choice relies on what works for you best and what your setup demands from you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding condenser vs. dynamic mics:
Does Diaphragm Size Matter?
Honestly, size doesn’t matter. Small and large diaphragm condenser mics work great. What’s important is you’ll pick the right tool for your intended purpose.
Small diaphragm mics are intended for producing uncolored, neutral, very detailed sound images.
Meanwhile, large diaphragm microphones can better capture the depth of very low-frequency sound.
What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing a Mic?
Before you invest in high-quality studio equipment, you should first consider the following factors:
Most quality microphones, especially condenser ones, come at a high price. Therefore, it might be difficult for a beginner to lose this huge amount to get a high-end mic immediately.
Do not worry, though! There are still good-quality mics sold at a lower price out there! For instance, dynamic mics are a little cheaper than condenser ones, depending on your choice.
The frequency response of a mic tells you what sound frequency it can produce and how well it performs at the said frequency range.
By determining the frequency response, you’ll also be able to tell what your microphone’s quality will sound like.
Determining your mic’s polar also lets you know your mic’s sensitivity to sound coming from various locations and directions. Among the patterns to choose from are the following:
Even if you have considered everything, such as the right polar pattern, determining your budget, the sound you’d be recording, how sensitive your mic is, and the quality of your mic, your top priority should still be determining your recording environment.
What Microphone Should I Use for Vocals?
Ultimately, all mic types, whether condenser, dynamic, or ribbon, work well with recording vocals.
However, different mics are needed for different genres and vocal tones. Let’s go through the most common ones:
- Warm singers – A dynamic mic best suits a warm singer with a natural timbre. However, a small diaphragm condenser microphone can also be used to counteract it if it goes beyond.
- Bright singers – A condenser microphone would best fit a bright singer that emphasizes her natural timbre; however, a ribbon mic would also fit when the tone should be tamed.
- Aggressive singers – Singers in rock and metal genres should go for a dynamic mic, which is made for loud sounds and environments.
- Calm singers – Controlled singers who like to sing alternative and pop music would love to have condenser mics.
- Vibey singers – A ribbon mic suits best for vibing genres, like folk, jazz, or blues.
BONUS TIP: You can also check out the XLR microphone — an analog mic connected to a recording device or mixer through an XLR cable.
Different mics serve different purposes. No one microphone fits all conditions.
Whatever mic you choose, the important thing is that you have chosen the one that meets your needs.
Condensers are very sensitive to sound waves and can carry higher frequencies. However, they require an external power supply, making them more appropriate for quiet and controlled studio settings.
However, for singers who are always on the move, dynamics are the best choice. These mics often do not need external phantom power. They are usually plug-and-play.